BEIJING/SHANGHAI – A Chinese film festival has pulled the award-winning gay romance “Call Me By Your Name” from its program, the movie’s distributor said Monday, reflecting China’s inconsistent relationship with gay themes in the creative arts.
The movie, which won a screenplay Oscar this month, was withdrawn from the Beijing International Film Festival set for April, Sony Pictures Entertainment said, declining to comment on the reason.
Homosexuality is not illegal in China, but activists say conservative attitudes in some sections of society have led to occasional government clampdowns.
Last July, an LGBT conference in the western city of Chengdu was called off after the venue canceled the booking, citing conflicting events. The lesbian dating app Rela was also shut down last May.
A list of banned audiovisual online content last year included homosexuality, underlining the long-standing attitude in China toward same-sex relations despite often thriving gay scenes in major cities.
The pulling of “Call Me By Your Name” also comes as China tightens its grip on media content. Parliament this month voted to scrap term limits for President Xi Jinping and hand control over film, news and publishing to the Communist Party’s publicity department.
The film is about a summer romance in Italy between a 17-year-old boy and an older student. It was pulled after the screening proposal submitted was not approved by regulators, a person with knowledge of the matter said.
In an initial screening list dated March 16, the organizer had included “Call Me By Your Name” along with other foreign films like “Lean on Pete” and art parody “The Square.”
The festival organizer declined to comment. China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television couldn’t be reached for comment.
“This movie is in deviation from the policy environment in China,” said Wu Jian, a Beijing-based film analyst, adding that it was “quite embarrassing for China” that it had been pulled.
China has long censored violence or sexual content in film releases, with a growing focus on socialist core values. Films with gay themes have met with a mixed reaction, with some banned, though others have been given the go-ahead.
“There is no clear policy on this issue, so we are always confused,” said Xin Ying, executive director of the Beijing LGBT Centre, adding that following the recent reshuffle of media regulators it was getting even harder to get clear direction.